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The Rachel Maddow Show

News/Business. (2011)




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U.s. 10, Us 9, Transocean 5, Mackinac 5, America 5, Michigan 4, Reuters 4, Bowlen 3, Michael Isikoff 3, Pennsylvania 3, Nts 3, Wisconsin 3, Japan 3, Afghanistan 3, Charlotte 3, Doug La Follette 3, Mexico 3, Cia 2, Rachel 2, Obama 2,
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  MSNBC    The Rachel Maddow Show    News/Business.  (2011)  

    March 31, 2011
    4:00 - 5:00am EDT  

>> i wish we had more time. author and columnist for the "daily beast," michelle goldberg. thank you very much for joining us tonight. >> oh, thanks so much for having me. >> you can have the last word online at our blog, and you can follow my tweets at lawrence. the rachel maddow show is up next. good evening, rachel. >> good evening, lawrence. thank you. and thanks to you at home for staying with us this hour. there is breaking news tonight out of washington, dc, as the reuters news agency reports, from what they say are four separate government sources that president obama has authorized covert operations inside libya to help the rebels there. quoting reuters -- indeed the "new york times" then
reports tonight that -- now does this mean that the cia is in libya as a pseudo-military force to topple gaddafi the way the cia participated as a pseudo-military force in toppling the taliban and afghanistan back in 2001? "t tesgo o oitwa i rorngonhto y no. first in afghanistan, the cia worked with u.s. military forces on the ground in afghanistan. in libya, the u.s. is still ruling out ground troops.
so far in libya, the u.s. is not saying we are doing that. the u.s. is not saying we are arming the rebels, but as i understand it, this presidential finding if it has happened would be the kind of instrument that president obama would use to authorize something like arming the rebels. again, i am not totally clear on what the presidential finding would mean if there is one, and since we don't know for a fact there definitely was one, it is hard to say exactly what its terms are. that's one of the things we are going to try to figure out with michael isikoff from nbc in a moment. what we know about the legality of this, presidential findings have been around for decades, presidents using them for covert operations have to notify the top democrat and republican in the house and senate, as well as top democrat and republican on the intelligence committees in both the house and the senate. that is eight members of congress all together, and they call that group the gang of eight.
a president using a presidential finding to authorize covert action have to notify that member of eight gang of congress. one of the eight is mike rogers, a congressman from michigan. check out his comment on this subject today. >> until we get a lot of very detailed information about who they are, and what they're for, i will be fairly strong advised against arming the rebels. >> against arming the rebels. one of the democrats in that gang of eight is dutch route list berger from maryland. here is what he had to say about it today. >> first thing, i am not going to discuss any covert action, and anything. i am not aware of that, of what obama did or did not sign. i am not sure if there's going to be an order, it is an on-going issue, i am a member of the gang of eight. if there's an order of covert, i will know. >> research it. no, the gang of eight really has to do with, i think it is law, basically from a check and balance that they need to notify congress of certain covert type
situations. >> the gang of eight, they need to notify congress of covert situations. he also says i am not aware of anything president obama did or did not sign. he's in the gang of eight. does he sound like he was looped in on this, if that in fact happened? he does not sound like it to me. joining me about what this means, michael isikoff. thank you for helping us with this. >> my pleasure. good to be with you. >> recognizing the ambiguity with which i discussed this so far, as far as you understand a presidential finding, did i get that right? what else can you tell us about a presidential finding and what they are used for? >> you did. this has been used by presidents for decades. it is generally defined as authorization by the president for covert action to topple the political, economic regime and
economic regime of another country, to actually influence action. that's different than just gathering intelligence, and so as my old colleague reported from reuters tonight, there was such a finding. i confirmed that with administration officials. it doesn't mean that the president has decided to arm the rebels, but this is a first step that would allow him to do so. but the real key here, and this is why i think the comments you showed from rogers and rupersberger are so important. without congressional approval of that, without congressional support, you can almost hear the echos of nicaragua and contras in the 1980s. remember the bowlin amendment, remember the big fights we had when presidents authorized covert action without the support of congress. >> so explain that about the bowlen amendment, how this was authorized in checks and balances.
i get that the president has to inform the so-called gang of eight from congress. but do they have to sign off on what he's doing, and if what they are being notified of is a covert action, how can they complain if they're not allowed to talk about it publicly? >> well, that is always the problem you get into when you deal with the intelligence committees because they simply say we can't talk about it, it is classified, then it is hard to learn anything. but look, the law does not say the president needs congressional approval for this. but it is awfully -- he's on awfully shaky grounds if he goes forward without it. that's what happened with ronald reagan in the 1980s. the bowlen amendment, congress always has the power of the purse, can always vote to deny funds, as it did in the bowlen amendment for arming contras, and this was the roots of the iran contra scandal. the president circumvented that, found another way to arm the nicaraguan rebels.
what we have in this finding so far as reported by reuters is that one of the options the president is considering is sending arms through the saudis and gutterees, that seems like a different way of accomplishing the same goal. but whether he goes forward with this without congressional approval, i think it is going to be one of the biggest decisions of the obama presidency. >> to be clear, so that we understand as best we can based on the reporting now, what has just happened. if he has issued a presidential finding, that is an authorization of covert action, as you describe it, something designed to influence action, not just get information. and it could also be a way that the president was trying to at least lay the ground work for starting to provide arms to the rebels, but we don't know what the finding is, so we don't know exactly what it is authorizing. >> we don't know precisely what it is, it is by its nature classified. so we won't see this for decades, if at all.
but look, publicly, i talked to white house officials tonight and they say look, this is something, arming the libyan rebels is something the president is certainly seriously considering. and what's more, he realizes, they realize they have to make decision on this soon, given the events on the ground, how fast it is moving and the set backs the rebels faced the last couple of days, you know, it may be too late if those arms, if this drags on weeks or months. i think we're approaching decision time, and it is a pretty big decision. >> not just for him, but for congress. fairly mooted reaction from coming thus far, but that can't continue. michael isikoff, this is complicated and important, i am glad to have your help in sorting it out. thanks. >> thank you. something you may have heard today about oil from a pretty reputable source that i'm pretty sure wasn't true. also something we worked out
today with maps about japan that made me have to lie down on the floor in my office and close my eyes and not think about it awhile. also, something about important ways to mispronounce important things. and something about the 1980s that oddly, weirdly matches what's going on in our world right now. that is all ahead in a busy in hour. please stay with us. [ male announcer ] undeniably colorful, seriously smooth,
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trance when it goes down. can't hit the alarm when high and hit the snooze button when down. >> his blueprint for a secure energy future, promise of more electric cars, more bio fuel, safer nuclear power and pony for every natural born citizen under the age of ten. also oil. presidential energy policies come down to the devil you really, really know well, and that is oil. president obama set a goal of cutting by a third the amount of oil that america buys overseas. >> this begins my continuing to increase america's oil supply. last year, american oil production reached its highest level since 2003. and for the first time in more than a decade, oil we imported accounted for less than half of the liquid fuel we consumed. so that was a good trend.
to keep reducing that reliance on imports, my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production. >> stop, stop it for a second. here is the thing about drilling for oil at home. you take the oil out of the ground. what do you do with it, ship it around the world so it can be sold as a commodity on the global market to china, brazil, wherever else, including here. just because you found more oil in your own gulf of mexico, for instance, does not mean you made an appreciable dent in the amount of oil you import at home, to be clear. it is a global market. you just contribute your supply to the global supply, i'm just saying. there is another thing about drilling for oil at home, in the act of trying to get your oil out of the gulf of mexico, if things go terribly wrong, you get a lot of oil at home. more domestic oil you can stand the sight of or hope to mop up with rented equipment and crews. you want more domestic oil, have some.
you have oil on top of oil on top of oil, covering dead birds, dolphins, underwater plumes that bill oh for miles and mysteriously disappear. who knows, bayous and hurricane breaks covered in oil. one of the risks of the obama administration was trying to stop the bp disaster last year, to somehow plug that seemingly unpluggable well. and then to somehow find a way to get the oil industry going again without risking another catastrophe. roll tape again, please. >> my administration is encouraging offshore oil exploration and production as long as it's safe and responsible. i don't think anybody here has forgotten what happened last year, where we had to deal with the largest oil spill in history. i know some of the fishermen on
the gulf coast haven't forgotten. and what we learned from that disaster helped us put in place smarter standards of safety and responsibility. for example, if you're going to drill in deepwater, you've got to prove before you start drilling that you can actually contain an underwater spill. that's just common sense. >> just common sense. we learned from that disaster. we learned our lessons, president obama is saying. that's why the administration has started issuing new permits for deepwater drilling. we learned and now it's safer. i don't actually think that is true. the reason why is because of information that we have reported on this show. what we have discovered would seem to prove the president's assurances about learning from the bp disaster and higher safety standards, what we have reported seems to indicate the president's assurances about those safety standards are unwarranted, not true. here is why i say that. i mean it for a specific reason.
this shows a blowup rig. if the pressure from the sea well blows up through the pipe, that preventer seals the well, holds the pressure in. that's the way it is supposed to work so you do not end up with this, with 11 men killed, a historic oil spill that continues for months. as part of the investigation into the bp disaster, the government hired a norwegian firm to perform forensic examination of what went wrong with the blowout preventer at deepwater horizon. what they found is something that is scary and not just scary about that one blowout preventer but about every one of them. they found even when they work as designed, when they are busted, they do not work. the pressure can render them useless, even if they're in fine shape. instead of working properly, you get this. despite the blowout preventer, you get a blowout.
the report calls for new studies on blowout preventers and says the findings should be considered and addressed in the design of future blowout preventers and need for modifying current blowout preventers. this is really important. blowout preventers don't need to be inspected more, maintained better, signed off more by more third parties. these things need to be redesigned. your lead parachute may be in perfect working order, you may take it out, buff it every day. doesn't mean that lead par chute will keep you alive if you jump out of a plane and deploy it. it is prone to failure when used as directed. today, president obama continued to assure the nation that drilling is safer than it used to be, that lessons have been learned. again, i am here to tell you that is not necessarily so and i am sorry about it. under the freedom of information act, we got a copy of the oil spill response plan for first
deepwater issue since the bp disaster, for a well whose largest owner, i still love this, isp, the well operator noble energy. this is thr oil spilresponse plan for permit issued last month. oil spill response plan dated september, 2009. eight months before the atiste y wl t nd emer n uesyo ck. eyayt bide tt those plans predate the disaster. they say companies are allowed to go forward with permits as they update old emergency schemes. they tell us there are other safety measures they can't the oil spill response plan in this case is old. prt p sp
anancoanies inth tenogyhat letohe largest accidental oil spill in the history of the world. tonight we learned something new in the scandal that the administkeat inrmio nhe ee,s next here.
ask me.
after the bp oil disaster prompted a moratorium on more deepwater drilling in the u.s., the obama administration last month started handing out permits again. today was a new permit for shell oil off the coast of louisiana. last friday they approved state oil for drilling a new well in the gulf. a week before that, bhp billiton getting approved to drill in the gulf. they hired transocean to do the drilling on that well, yes, you remember transocean. this drill ship with an unpronounceable name as you see here had been doing the drilling prior to the moratorium, according to the latest available information from interior department's website, transocean is still the driller of record. why should you care about that particular drill ship drilling in your particular gulf of mexico? because according to a 30-year veteran of the oil industry with whom we consulted today, that drill ship is equipped with the same blowout preventer used by deepwater horizon. me one that caused the worst oil spill in united states
history. all that happy talk about how much safer everything is now, they are using the same equipment used in the bp disaster. happy talk or not. joining us now, former oil industry executive bob cavnar, that 30 year veteran that we consulted with today. currently ceo of a company in the natural gas industry. before that, he was president and ceo of an oil and gas drilling exploration firm. he is author of the book disaster on the horizon. the story behind the deepwater horizon blowout. thanks for being here. >> happy to be here. >> what do we know about the transocean drill ship blowout preventer compared with deepwater horizon? >> this drill ship was built about the same time as deepwater horizon was, so the blowout preventer had that same one around 2000. it is essentially identical to deepwater horizon preventer.
has the same preventers, cameron ones on top and bottom. only difference it has one more ram for a little more redundancy than the deepwater horizon. >> one change. other than that, pretty much the same. >> control system is the same, everything else is the same. >> do we know anything about this drill ship's safety record? >> it is interesting. this drill ship received mms, predecessor to bme, mre safety ou ihaemy is dionctthe me oe 2002, once in 2004, and again in 2007. the 2002 and 2004 incidents were caused by weather. this is a dynamically positioned ship held in place by gps and thrusters. in severe weather can be pushed off location. that happened twice in those years. in 2007, it was operator error. >> operator error.
>> the operator who runs the dynamic positioning system actually inputted the wrong data, had corrupted data and pushed it off location. >> are there upgrades? department of interior is bragging there have been safety upgrades. you and i have talked about whether or not you can do better inspections of your lead parachute, as i put it before. but are there upgrades that could be made to a blowout preventer like this one that would make it less like the deepwater horizon, that would make it more likely to five the blowout that deep sixed that preventer? >> it required a complete redesign, they talked about that all through the report, redesigning the rams. the only thing they can do to existing devices is redundancy. if you have two sheer rams that cut the pipe, hopefully one of those will work. just having one on the deepwater
horizon, obviously even that failed, it was complete failure. short of that, you have to redesign the entire device. >> seems like the federal government is much more focused at this point on making sure oil companies can contain an oil spill if it happens, rather than talking about preventing an oil spill from happening in the first place. is that a way of not focusing on the blowout preventer design flaw? is that a way of essentially giving that away, saying we will just clean it up if that happens? >> absolutely. that's what i've been talking about the past several weeks. everyone talks about what happens when the blowout preventer fails. i think we should focus on keeping it from failing in the first place, maintaining well control where you don't have to use it. if you keep well control solid and you have a reliable device, you don't need sub sea well containment. it is good to have that in case everything else goes wrong, but you really have to work on design of the blowout preventer where it does not fail when you have to activate it.
>> when it does not fail because of the thing that requires it in the first place. that's the thing that makes me crazy about this. have you seen post deepwater horizon safety improvements that should make people feel reassured enough to feel comfortable at the permits coming out at a rate of one every four days? >> usually after one of these events, like the exxon valdez, they focus a couple of years, make sure the safety reports are filled out, everybody is trained and everybody is working according to the procedures. but success breeds complacency. over a period of time, you have this -- slip into the same complacency where history could very well repeat itself if we don't improve the devices themselves. >> bob cavnar, author of disaster on the horizon. 30 year veteran of the oil industry. i should note for viewers we tried to contact bhp bulletin and transocean, nobody was available to answer questions. we will keep trying tirelessly. thanks very much.
>> you bet. after that super heavy duty news, for the next segment, we have come up with an excuse to play a clip from the michael movie, back to the future.
what is it, einy? oh, my god. they found me. i don't know how, but they found me. run for it, marty. >> who, who? >> who do you think, the libyans. >> who do you think? the libyans! this is the guy who was running libya at the time that movie, back to the future, came out in 1985. same guy. what were we americans doing vis-a-vis libya at that time? time magazine cover from 1986, target gadhafi. while not quite the same thing, still, ballpark, before the new libyan war and new nuclear disaster, not chernobyl but japan. my friend david sirota turned this into a book about how the 1980s are not only repeating
themselves, they warped our national thinking in surprisingly propagandaistic ways. the book is called "back to our future". how the 1980s explained the world we live in now, culture, politics, everything. it is spooky, like david himself. david, are you wearing save ferris t-shirt? >> i am. >> can we drop the interview bugs? excellent and perfect. talk me through american libyan war/intervention 2011, and american libyan war/intervention, 1980s. can we learn from this? i think we can. one of the things from pop culture and politics is that war can solve our problems, that we can solve problems through force. i think we saw that in the 1980s through proxy wars, through bombing raids and through 25 years ago almost to the month bombing libya.
that was the idea. we saw it in pop culture of the 1980s, top gun-ification of our debates of pop culture, pop culture aimed at children, and now seeing a rerun. this idea that every problem can be solved, every foreign policy problem apparently can be solved with a war. another thing that comes out of the '80s, every domestic problem supposedly can be solved by a tax cut. these all come out of the 1980s. and again, both the political culture and popular culture of the 1980s. >> the nice thing about that, it can be sort of a bummer when you think of it that way, but it can be like the '80s where the pilot projects, we can look and see the effect of the tax cuts or of whether or not military intervention solved all our foreign policy issues. one of the things you document is that when things in the '80s
mythologized so the lesson we learned about the '80s is that they did work. >> that's what's crazy about this. you're right. if we rerun history from the 1980s, we should be able to learn about it, learn from our mistakes. what's happened, we really created a legend out of what happened in the 1980s. and i would argue that that was both, again, from ronald reagan and from a lot of the entertainment culture that doesn't seem like political messages. we learn from movies like "iron eagle", "top gun," tv shows like the a-team, dukes of hazard, that the military is the ultimate institution in society, and we created this monumental idea that everything we did in the 1980s we did was good and everything we did in the 1980s we should keep doing. >> on that one reference to the a-team, i have to tell you, i was born in 1973. you're a little younger than me. every reference in the book is something that i emotionally get. i have to tell you, i watched
every single second of the a-team that was ever put on television. i was absolutely obsessed with the a-team. can you explain to me how that warped my mind? >> you were like many young people. a-team was one of the top rated shows among preteens in the 1980s. it had a big effect on people. think about the story of the a-team. the government unduly incarcerates our heros, they escape because the government can't even keep them incarcerated, and they solve the problems the government refuses to solve. in fact, they are solving problems while the government is trying to apprehend them for solving society's problems. we can see the analog now. this is how political culture talks about government, that you can't rely on government, you have to rely on outsiders and private contractors, black waters, haliburtons to solve society's problems. i am not making a link between black water and the a-team, but saying when you and i were kids and 7 million other preteens are taught that government can't do anything and that we have to
hire the outsider, that becomes the way in which our government now speaks to us, our politics now speak to us. >> and it makes those arguments now resonate in a way that is emotionally satisfying and that we can't necessarily explains - plain because it sort of shaped our subconscious. it is a deeply conspiratorial book you have written, but also one i have to say rang as true to me on just about every single page. i think it is a real achievement. and i'm happy you had so much success with it. >> thanks, rachel. >> the book, back to our future. i will tell you, this book made me remember the muscle memory of how to win the atari games i was good at. i was good at kaboom. there is a town called versailles. it is pronounced differently.
i could go on and on. in fact, i shall. there is so much more to this, including a deep apology coming up. sam higgins? you have frequent heartburn, right?
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if you phonetically read the name of think tank, it is mackinac. they prefer to be called mackinac. i am going to keep calling them mackinac.
i knew the place in michigan was mackinac. i did not know the think tank was named for the place and should sound the same. still, totally wrong. totally wrong. also, fon due lack, fon delack. fon due lack. secretary la follette, second doug la follette. saying things out loud, pronouncing things on television can be trouble. to be clear, the think tank in michigan like the island is called mackinac. i can be spiteful, but it is still mackinac. the city in wisconsin is fon due lack, and second of state in wisconsin is doug la follette. as long as we talk about things hard for me to say out loud, i need you to know i am incapable of saying the word procurement any faster than i did just then. procurement. i cannot say it except that slowly. i cannot say it any fast error it comes out garbled. nuclear, no problem. procurement, slow.
at the maddow blog we simultaneously corrected the record on the mackinac thing and solicited readers favorite mispronunciations of famous places. in michigan there's a town called charlotte. you may think oh, charlotte, like north carolina. michiganders pronounce it charlotte. according to eagle lady 11, i grew up in colorado. we pronounce it colorado. blanch elizabeth tells us in part despite how the golden girls pronounce it, boca raton tone does not rhyme with baton. according to andrew, maryland is pronounced to rhyme with mer lynn. susan b says pronounced about the same as mer lynn, but don't
say that way if you aren't from merlin, or you will sound silly. if you live in kansas, this arkansas river are not pronounced that way. according to kathy, capitol of south dakota is pronounced pierre. a comment or said a small town peru is pronounced differently. one of the producers didn't believe it was true and kind of interrogated the person that answered the phone at the chamber of commerce in madison, iowa. that person assured her it is pronounced pee-ru. wd e af ofhehoha amu e
cky r , erar sotis,veso tt n' involve midwesterners. there's the voice of america proue e mef fo enad, lpl kesa f expl y wld like to give a phone call, a shouto to th president georgia. >> we don't even have a way to indicate that one in phonetic spelling. if you have a need to know how to pronounce a thing in the state of wisconsin, there is a grea check it out. at this website, here is the secretary of state doug la follette pronouncing his own name for you.
>> doug la follette. >> see! best of all, though, there is this. forvo. this features people from places where things are located, pronouncing them. there are six pronunciations of mackinac. let's hear them. mackinac, mackinac, mackinac, mackinac, mackinac. >> did you hear the last one. she gets two thumbs down for pronouncing it that way, but she got nothing like the rain of atr in dn mla nhtor geinitro t se y. i dplsoy. i am also super entertained with the process of coming up with this apology.
it was a nightmare scenario when it happened. it is still a nightmare scenario today. a nuclear plant getting into trouble because of an equipment accident inside the nuclear plant. the radioactive fuel rods began heating up at a dangerous rate. there was a partial nuclear reactor core meltdown, which caused the immediate shutdown of that nuclear power plant. was that three mile island? no, it was on the shores of lake erie. it went through a partial core meltdown. how about this one, a u.s. nuclear power plant in pennsylvania, just outside harrisburg. forced to shut down after one of its reactors suffered two different malfunctions in the span of nine days, forcing a leak of radiation into the air. was that three mile island? no. that was peach bottom nuclear station. how about on the eastern seaboard suffering a catastrophic failure of its emergency shutdown system? the system in place to prevent a
nuclear meltdown. the system failed and then the backup to the shut down system failed. and a day later three systems fail again. that was in southern new jersey. a nuclear plant employee carrying a lit candle accidently causes a fire just below the plant's control room. that fire manages to take out the plant's primary and emergency cooling systems causing the shut down of ultimately two reactors. that's the browns ferry nuclear plant in athens, alabama. a power plant suffers severe malfunctions over the course of two days. releasing 600,000 gallons of boiling radioactive steam into the air. is that three mile island? no. that's the indian point nuclear plant just north of new york city. how about a different u.s. nuclear power plant losing its main power source, forcing workers into an allout scramble to keep the radioactive fuel rods cool. three mile island?
no, the station in carroll township, ohio, on the shores of lake erie. and a catastrophic human and o the air, nearly 200,000 americans are forced to flee their homes. that was three mile island. this week, 32 years ago, on march 30th, 1979, featured this lead story on nbc "nbc nightly news" news." >> good evening, there was serious trouble today at the three mile island nuclear plant in pennsylvania. trouble serious enough to cause the evacuation of small children and pregnant women from a five-mile area around the endangered nuclear plant. the problem is, that it is more difficult than had been thought to cool the radioactive nuclear fuel inside the power plant. and until it's cooled, it is very dangerous. >> three mile island is usually thought of america's only big nuclear accident. that's because we tend to forget
that 13 years before three mile island was 1966, the browns ferry accident, the beach bottom accident in pennsylvania 1980, and new jersey 1983, and the indian point nuclear accident in new york was in 2000. the davis bessie accident in 2002. that's not an exclusive list. i could go on, right? three mile island gets all the glory, but it is in very crowded company when it comes to the nuclear accidents over the last five decades. today in japan the iaea found radiation levels high enough to trigger evacuation, 40 kilometers away from the fukushima reactors. to keep that in perspective, so far the evacuation order around that plant extends to 20 kilometers. the government has advised a voluntary evacuation to 30 kilometers, but in this town, 40 kilometers away, well beyond even the voluntary evacuation zone, the agency found radiation levels twice as high as the level at which that agency recommends that people evacuate.
you may remember that on friday, on this show, we hosted a distinguished nuclear scientist from princeton university. dr. von hippel described in our interview mapping of high radiation readings in japan that had been done by our department of energy. we posted this on our blog. you can see the bright red line there, it goes northwest from the reactor. that's what was measured in japan as of a week ago. check this out. the town that the iaea says today showed dangerously high radiation levels, 40 kilometers from the plant, that town is here. so that red line showed the extent of highest levels of radiation emanating from the plant last wednesday. the town where today the u.n. said radiation levels are twice what should prompt an evacuation. that town is just about right in line with where we have been able to see that radiation traveling across japan. all of this time. i generally think that learning more about something is a way to alleviate your fear about it, but in this case when i asked the producer on this show to put those maps together, and this is
what he came up with, it did not make me feel better, it made me feel bad about what is going on there. the united states congress has convened hearings on how safe our nuclear reactors are here. putting the nuclear energy industry in the not all that hot but still a little hot seat. >> one thing i can say going forward is that our industry, our hallmark is learning from operating experience. we learned a lot from tmi in terms of operator training, as well as design enhancements, and we will enhance safety as a result of fukushima. we will get these lessons learned. >> we will get these lessons learned. i have a suggested lesson already. the simple point. remember how at fukushima when the power went out the backup power was the diesel generators? but it also knocked out the generators? they needed a backup system for their backup system.
the backup backup they had at fukushima was battery powered. it was powered by batteries that could fuel the cooling system at that plant for eight hours. and after that eight hours was up, and the batteries went dead, then the catastrophe really began. america has about twice as many nuclear plants as japan does. we have the same kind of backups and backup backup systems here as they do in japan. except frankly, on average, japan's are better. of america's 104 nuclear plants, we have 11 plants that have the same eight-hour batteries that were not enough in japan. the other 93 are even worse. the other 93 reactors we've got have only got four hours worth of battery power. congressman ed markey is sponsoring legislation to require 72 hours of power at these reactors. that seems like a start. in addition, any blindingly obvious and very upsetting new lessons to be learned from fukushima disaster, in addition to those, there are also a lot of old lessons still waiting to be learned. one day before the nuclear disaster in japan, one day, u.s.
officials signed off on a 20-year license extension for the vermont yankee nuclear plant. look familiar at all? the reactor shares the exact same design as the now crippled fukushima reactors. a ge-made reactor whose design flaws have resurfaced over the last few weeks. you may only hear about the three mile island accident when you hear about u.s. nuclear safety issues. but an abc news review of nuclear regulatory records turned up 56 separate safety violations at u.s. nuclear power plants in the last four years alone. everything from mishandled radioactive material to backup generators that don't work. california's diablo canyon nuclear plant now seeing one of its reactors shut down, the result of a failed pump that was supposed to be supplying water to the steam generators. a majority of the county's supervisors where it's located
are now asking the owner of that reactor to withdraw its license renewal contract until earthquake studies can be done. in voicing the concerns about the accident-prone nuclear reactors, even though they don't start from an anti-nuclear position at all. 250 miles south of diablo, another california nuclear plant will go through testing. on the same day that a former manager at that facility filed a lawsuit saying he was fired by the plant's owner for reporting safety concerns. the obama administration has brought a new high-profile bipartisan cast to support for nuclear energy, support that used to be disproportionately republican. everybody gets nuclear power is better than fossil fuels in terms of carbon emissions and climate change, but making that case is not the same as reassuring the country that nuclear power is safe. how long after a power outage could the battery